Daisy Turnbull explains why she was wrong about Grace Tame
“My favorite thing about this menu is the proportion of the desserts,” she says. We order oysters (because champagne) and a selection of small dishes: haloumi, trevallies, zucchini on stracciatella and pasta with Moreton Bay bug, with the promise of a long dessert menu.
Turnbull hasn’t always been in education. She always liked the idea, but gave up because it was…too small.
“I couldn’t imagine walking into a classroom at 21 and trying to teach 17-year-olds.” She considered a career in psychology but chose advertising, in part because it offered insight into the minds of consumers.
In 2011, Turnbull began teaching history and religion and has been at St. Catherine’s School since 2013. Her real passion, she says, is outside of the classroom. She is Director of Wellness, in addition to her substantive role.
“In teaching, you come to a point where you have to choose which rabbit to hunt: curriculum or pastoral. And for me, it has always been pastoral. That focus comes partly from her parents, she says, and partly from her own school experience at Kincoppal-Rose Bay. “There was a real focus on social awareness, social justice. And I’ve always been a firm believer in the benefits of good relationships.
It was this conviction that prompted her to write 50 questions. Turnbull has been a Lifeline Advisor since 2018 (“You don’t want me to swim to save you in North Bondi,” she quips, “but I can listen”), and has witnessed a trend that has her alarmed: women in their 60s and 70s, asking for advice because their adult children no longer spoke to them. Turnbull wondered, when did these relationship breakups happen? And by asking their teenagers questions and building a stronger foundation, could such situations be avoided?
The book talks about “nourish your interior Seinfeld”, says Turnbull. In other words, ask your teen what’s wrong with things. What’s the deal with social media? What’s wrong with your school? It’s part practical advice — there are chapters on financial literacy and cooking — and part exploration of the mind.
Turnbull agrees that she is opening herself up to criticism by becoming an education spokesperson. It’s a happy trade, she says, for work, and while she doesn’t really enjoy it, it’s a change from being attacked for things she can’t change. : namely his parents.
“I’m very happy to be criticized on the book,” she says. She was targeted for the privilege granted by her family and simply said, “I just feel like it’s too easy.”
Something she had to come to terms with is the unanswered question of why people care about her – is it her job or is it her famous last name?
“I still wonder why people care about what I do,” she says. “Really, I always will. Even this interview, she says, gesturing to me, do I have it because of mom and dad? I think maybe two years ago 100% of those interviews were out of curiosity about my family, and now maybe it’s 60%, 70%. It will never be zero. But being their daughter is the greatest of privileges. I hope I will do something good with what they gave me.
It strikes me as unusual, I say, that the daughter of a former Prime Minister and Lord Mayor of Sydney should have a career, let alone one in the less than glamorous field of education. Others in his situation are trying, for example, to escape recognition as friends of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.
The 37-year-old, it seems, has learned a thing or two about diplomacy.
“Well, I think most of them work,” she said, dodging the inference. “And what my parents instilled in me was hard work. They always worked so hard. So, I was always going to do that. And I really love teaching.
No plan to enter politics
After her sabbatical, during which she will promote her book, volunteer at Lifeline, and study for her Masters in Educational Psychology (she also has a Masters in Theological Studies), she plans to find another role in teacher, and in the meantime, maybe find a casual job in a school.
For someone born into significant wealth, Turnbull doesn’t seem affected by this, wondering if I’m as thrilled as she is about never having to pay child care again (our two youngest children are starting elementary school this week).
It is not planned to enter politics. At least not yet.
Turnbull was 14 when her father campaigned for Australia to become a republic, and 18 when her mother, Lucy, was appointed mayor of Sydney. She was 30 when her father became prime minister.
Despite her lineage – perhaps because of her – she doesn’t have “candidate’s disease”.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not doing anything now. I really like to teach. My children are young. If the opportunity never arose, she would be “very happy to have a life that didn’t involve politics”. But, she concedes, we need more women in politics. “And why aren’t more women entering politics? she asks ironically. “For the very reason we need more women in politics.”
One woman running for politics is Allegra Spender, daughter of the late Carla Zampatti, who is contesting Turnbull’s father’s former seat Wentworth as an independent. What does Turnbull, paying member of Wentworth think?
“Allegra? She was my babysitter. I’ve known her since I was about seven years old.
Spender is “an amazing person,” says Turnbull. “I think Dave [Sharma, the sitting member] has a real fight on its hands. The climate is a strength for her and her campaign. She warns that Wentworth is often seen as a safe Liberal seat, but that is “fundamentally wrong”.
“It must be treated as a marginal seat. Dave is a good member. But I think at the federal level, the party is not talking to Wentworth. It’s not their priority. So we’ll see how it plays out.
The conversation turns to Grace Tame as we ponder dessert (and ultimately decide to skip it; Turnbull has to take her daughter on a kindergarten date).
“It was interesting,” she said, referring to Tame’s refusal to smile during a reception with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Within the first five minutes, I was like, ‘Why didn’t you just smile?’ But then I thought, no, it’s our internalized misogyny. We all have it. Always be wise, smile, be friendly. To do otherwise would be our weakness. She pauses. “It was fascinating to me that for five minutes I was in a camp, then I realized I was wrong.
“I think Grace can absolutely do whatever she wants. And I think she’s brilliant. What we want is for women to feel more comfortable, and more importantly, we want young people girls say when they do not do feel comfortable. So we have to break with this idea that girls can’t disappoint the people around them by being less than perfectly civil.
She pauses before continuing.
“And I think bullies often win by being the good guy in the room. They can say, ‘Well, I behaved perfectly well.’ That comment, she says, is not ‘specifically Prime. Minister”.
She was not surprised when Brittany Higgins presented rape allegations to Parliament last year.
“I don’t think Canberra is a terribly healthy place,” she says. “I thought what Brittany did was amazing. And [schoolgirl] Chanel [Contos] too much. This sparked many conversations with the students. It’s something that women have been living in silence for too long.
She has hope, she says, for this generation of teenagers, and girls in particular.
“I think teenage girls are going to change the world,” she says calmly and sincerely. “They are incredibly powerful.
“I think there’s a teenage anger that rightly exists, especially after last year. They’re ready to embrace change.
“I don’t want young women to continue to feel like they have to make themselves small for the men in their lives. I don’t want them always playing for the male gaze. But the thing with these girls is that they are so aware of it. They will decide for themselves what works for them.
The law project
Ursula’s, 92 Hargrave Street, Paddington, NSW
Champagne reseda oysters, $24
Natural oysters, $18
Salad of raw trevally, coconut, turmeric and chilli, $32
Moreton Bay insect pasta, parmesan cheese and shellfish butter, $35
Aphrodite haloumi fried, honey, lemon and mint peas, $30
Zucchini, stracciatella, hazelnut, $13
Purezza sparkling water, $10